Cannabis for the skin? It may sound a little strange, but new research into the endocannabinoid system (ECS) shows that cannabinoids can indeed be very beneficial for the skin. Cannabinoid receptors are well expressed in the skin, and can be influenced by CBD, THC and more.
Our focus in this article is on non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD), and how CBD creams, salves, massage gels and any type of topically-applied product can improve the condition of your skin and treat multiple complaints.
Hemp-based CBD products are legal at state and federal level in the United States, and are made using either just CBD, or from a whole-plant extract. Products made using the entire extract are known as “full-spectrum”, as they contain all the other compounds from cannabis, including non-psychoactive cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG).
Psoriasis is a notorious skin disorder for researchers as well as those who have it, because there is no cure – only treatments that can mitigate symptoms, with varying rates of success. Psoriasis causes the skin to become excessively flaky and dry, as skin cells that are produced in the lower layers of the skin get pushed to the surface (the epidermis) within three or four days.
Normally, it’s meant to take around 30 days for cells to reach the epidermis, where they can then be shed. However, with so many skin cells on the surface, the body is unable to shed them fast enough, causing the skin to flare up with red, dry, scaly patches.
How can CBD help? CBD is an anti-inflammatory cannabinoid that interacts with the CB2 receptor in the ECS, which regulates inflammation – this can help to calm down the immune system when it becomes overzealous, as is the case with psoriasis. CBD works to correct issues with the skin cell cycle, and to boost sebum production as required – sebum is an oil made by the sebaceous glands that is essential for lubricated and waterproofed skin.
The sebaceous glands are in action again with acne, but in this scenario, it’s the overload of sebum which presents problem. The massive and mostly unnecessary sebum production leads to severely oily skin, which can become dirty and even infected as particles and bacteria get trapped in the pores of the skin. Acne has no cure and is thought to be the eighth most common global disease, affecting over 9 percent of the world population.
However, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD and the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the skin has allowed researchers to develop a novel treatment for acne. A 2014 study found CBD to be sebostatic, meaning that it can regulate and – for acne, at least – reduce sebum production to control the oiliness of the skin. Besides the 2014 research, there are an absence of further, quality research at present (as there are in several areas of cannabinoid research), but many anecdotes touting the acne-fighting qualities of CBD can be found online.
Eczema is a complex skin disorder affecting more than 30 million Americans, and around one in five children globally. The condition can manifest in many forms and is sometimes inherited – flare-ups are often set off by allergens which, for some patients, can take many years to detect. Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema causes the skin to become dry, itchy, cracked and flaky. However, scratching just leads to further redness and inflammation.
There are a few studies relating to CBD and eczema, and a 2009 review featured in The Trends of Pharmacological Sciences looked closely at all the existing research on the ECS and skin disorders. Theydiscovered that many eczema symptoms could be managed by CBD, suggesting that the ECS has a role to play in the skin disorder. More recent research showed that CBD could help regulate the proliferation of skin cells and ensuring that the skin produces healthy cells.
Applying topical CBD products liberally and regularly to eczema-affected skin may not only treat symptoms but improve quality of life by making the condition easier to deal with and less obvious to others. A National Eczema Association survey showed that more than 30 percent of patients with diagnosed eczema were also diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
CBD is the new big thing in the anti-aging industry, as those seeking to retain their youth look to capitalize on the compound’s potent antioxidant properties. There are two kinds of aging – intrinsic and extrinsic. The former is mostly made up of a slow decline in collagen and elastin production causes the skin to become less tight, and therefore more vulnerable to wrinkling. This cannot be controlled, however, extrinsic aging can, and this type of aging is responsible for roughly 90 percent of all aging.
Free radicals make up a big chunk of extrinsic aging – these are uncharged molecules which come from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, smoke, environmental pollutants and more. However, antioxidants have the power to neutralize free radicals, which stops them from damaging the tissue in the skin. Therefore, coating the face often with a CBD cream can help to prevent deep lines and wrinkles by preserving the skin’s tightness.
Reduces pain, swelling and other kinds of inflammation
After getting an injury, the immune system instructs white blood cells to go to the affected area – there’s also a build up of fluid, which leads to swelling. While inflammation is a natural process, it sometimes gets out of control and can be very painful. Thankfully, CBD is good at fighting inflammation and alleviating pain. Rubbing in a CBD topical immediately following an injury helps to limit the swelling.
These anti-inflammatory effects are harnessed by an increasing number of arthritis patients, many of whom find that applying CBD cream to the most painful areas keeps pain levels down and protects the bones from becoming too exposed by slowing the deterioration of joint cartilage.
The contents of this article should be considered as informational and educational only – this is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor.